If you thought that life is a dream as you row merrily down the Portland streams, think again. Scientists delved into the streams around Portland as part of the national effort to narrow down on the main pollutants and its source in the water systems.
This exercise by scientists found residues of medicines and coffee sediments in the water bed. The list of compounds includes the likes of Prozac, Tagamet, Benadryl, and Micatin. Caffeine was also present in abundance which has sent ripples in the Northwest.
The scientists have been spending sleepless nights about the possible repercussions of this contamination. The antibiotic residues in water may be detrimental to fish and other sea life. This would also pose major health risks for humans who are likely to consume contaminated seafood. Further, bacteria and other organisms develop resistance to drugs and pesticides found in the sea bed, making it difficult to treat.
The compounds seem to have a well known source, the human sewage that is incompatible in certain treatment plants. "People just assumed a lot of that stuff was removed," said Sheree Stewart, drinking water protection coordinator at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. "Actually a lot of what is in the raw water gets through," she added.
The chemicals could be the surplus medicines that go down the drain, a practice which is being discouraged. Scientists also found that young salmon both the female and male from the Willamette River around Portland showed remains of an egg yolk protein that is commonly found in adult female fish.
"So they're being exposed to something, we just don't know what it is," said Lyndal Johnson, head of reproductive toxicology at the federal Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "It's quite interesting, and a little disturbing," she said.